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Ryan McGinley, Dakota hair (detail), 2004

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Issue 10: July 13, 2005

Focusing on photography, Artkrush takes aim at the growing photoblog phenomenon, charts the rising star of a recent Yale grad, and discusses photo books with an Aperture editor. We round up some of the best shows of photography — from fine art to documentary — at museums and galleries around the globe. And to complete the picture, we glimpse a book from Martin Parr, a Magnum pro who knows how to tell a visual tale with clarity and wit.

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Ruling Declares Hamilton Photos "Indecent"
(The Guardian, June 23)
The work of art photographer David Hamilton, who first rose to prominence in the '70s shooting sensual scenes of teenage girls, has been branded "indecent" in a landmark British court ruling. Reproductions of Hamilton's photos were found in the possession of a 49-year-old man charged with holding a collection of 19,000 indecent images of children. According to authorities, anyone owning one of Hamilton's books, which have sold in the millions, can be arrested.

Biology Pushes Art's Legal and Conceptual Limits
(New York Times, July 3)
Critical Art Ensemble member Steven Kurtz, arrested in 2004 when police discovered bacterial cultures and incubators in his studio, has brought attention to a new strain of avant-garde art. Bioart is a rapidly growing field for contemporary artists who embrace nontraditional materials. But as bioartists are able to manipulate increasingly powerful technologies, debate grows as to how strictly the artists should be regulated.

New Freedom Tower Design Unveiled
(BBC, June 29)
New York City officials and architect David Childs have unveiled a new design for the Freedom Tower, which has had to accommodate safeguards against terrorist attacks. Critics deride the new design as driven by fear and compromise. Original Freedom Tower architect Daniel Libeskind has meanwhile been concentrating on other projects, including high-profile commissions in Denver, St. Louis, and Toronto.

Video Art Finds A Home
(New York Times, June 26)
In the '70s, video artists such as Nam June Paik and Bill Viola envisioned the medium as a way to subvert the art market. Now it is a high-profile commodity with prominent collectors going to extremes to install works in their apartments and homes. Still evolving, video art raises complex questions about the uniqueness and archival potential of an artwork.

Jim Drain enjoys Basel limelight after winning prestigious award » more

Russian roulette performance at UCLA ends with two professors retiring » more

Renzo Piano shapes new vision of Paul Klee » more

Renegade Australian architect tackles homelessness with his Futureshack » more

Canadian Jewish group opposes auction of Hitler sketches » more

Magazine digs up dirt on flashy Rothschild Foundation trustee » more

Saatchi buys into celebrity scandal with recent painting acquisition » more

Björk and Barney collaborate on new film at Japanese museum » more

Historic factory, once owned by Oskar Schindler, to become modern art museum » more

Robots run away with costly British arts project » more

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.

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[ Blogging in a Material World ]


Youngna Park / Eliot Shepard / Ryan McGinley / Jake Dobkin

While the art world recovers from the reeling prices of the spring auctions and the heady sales at Art Basel, the international photoblog community slogs along, heedless of the art and money nuptials. Putting the image over the salable object, photoblogs tend toward a diaristic style, generally posting one or more images daily of clever compositions of the quotidian. At their best, the work is akin to the autobiographic narratives of hip Japanese photographer Hiromix or snapshot maestro Ryan McGinley.

New York-based Youngna Park trains her camera on her artist friends and the city's upper crust, a mix of tattooed hipsters and grinning suits. Deborah Lattimore's collection of family photos spans more than 40 years, presenting her grandparents in gorgeous sepia tones, her father in classic '70s color, and wonderfully scratched black-and-white prints — a fine portfolio of vernacular photography.

Moving away from subjects close at hand, the Fukuro-Kingyo site presents a quirky series of photographs of live goldfish in plastic bags. These closely cropped images verge on abstraction — a wisp of tailfins or iridescent scales refracted through air bubbles and plastic. They're not far from Aaron Siskind's iconic photographs of divers.

With the falling price of digital cameras, the number of photobloggers grows daily. Jake Dobkin, a photoblogger who organized the recent New York City Photobloggers 4 panel says, "I can't believe how much the scene has grown. When I started photoblogging in 2001, there were only five or six people in New York City running daily photoblogs — now there are hundreds."

The lure of commercial success isn't far behind this rise in popularity. Dobkin, along with others like Eliot Shepard, has had gallery exhibitions, and many sites offer prints for sale. However, the act of photographing still trumps any lucrative dreams. Photoblogging has broadened and leveled the field of photography, allowing anyone to inexpensively create and disseminate his or her work — a democratic yawp in a commodified age. (CYL)

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Laurie Simmons: The Long House
La galer�a Distrito Cu4tro
Now through July 25

  Laurie Simmons has explored the surrogate figure in photography since the '70s. Instead of mining the elastic female persona using her own body like colleague Cindy Sherman, Simmons plays with dolls, dummies, dollhouses, and mannequins to skewer social and sexual behavior, delivering well-aimed feminist barbs. In her recent series of works, Simmons eviscerates a 1976 how-to book titled The Instant Decorator. Collaging figures from fashion magazines and porn comic books into the mix-and-match retro interiors, Simmons clearly revels in subverting scenes of suburbia at leisure. The collages are ultimately photographed by Simmons, conferring a glossy sheen upon their saturated colors and stagy episodes. (MW)

Lise Sarfati: The American Series
The Photographers' Gallery
Now through July 31

  Adolescence — with its angst, delusions of omnipotence, and quest for self-definition — is the true subject underlying this series of photographs taken in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, and California. Lise Sarfati's Americans wait to emerge from their developmental chrysalis, a faux nonchalance concealing their emotional vulnerability. The spare, almost set-like environments and compositions evoke the performative aspect of this transitional period — seen, for example, in the dress-up play of subjects Sasha and Sloane — while obliquely referencing art history, as in the Vermeer-like Dierdre #20, Oakland, CA and Suzannah #23, Hillsboro, OR. Through her complicit lens, Sarfati elicits a poignant, fragmented story of emerging identities and dislocated dreams. (AK)

Philip-Lorca diCorcia: New series and Hollywood
Galerie Almine Rech
Now through July 23

  Philip-Lorca diCorcia masterfully walks a visual tightrope between seemingly informal snapshots and staged settings under the big top of the human condition. Starting with pictures of family and friends, and moving on to strangers and street scenes, his saturated portraits of real-life subjects always lead to social introspection. Stunningly presented here, along with images from his street hustlers series, the five new prints of exotic dancers are immediately arresting and represent the ultimate portraits of impulsive yet cautious moments in society. To be completely naked and athletically contorted, crudely exposed in stark light, yet entirely withdrawn from your own condition, this is the human psychology he touches on — and he has clearly hit a nerve. (MS)

Vanessa Beecroft
Galleria Massimo Minini
Now through September

  Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft described her latest flesh assemblage — the usual group of lanky women, this time in a historic botanical garden in Florence — as "a reference to land art," contrasting "the purity of women's bodies, their nudity, with the dirty color of the soil and its matter." Leaving the rarefied art-meets-fashion vector that shot her to prominence (remember the Gucci bikinis?), Beecroft has brought things down to earth, literally: the performance ended with the models writhing atop a pile of dirt. "Some of the models look like lilies," the artist mused, "others like potatoes." The accompanying photographs — of women covered in dirt, or standing expressionless, in the Beecroft-meets-Riefenstahl mode — manage to make a bit more of the conceit, while the richly dark colors bring to mind a Boschian garden of earthly delight. (SRP)

Sophie Calle: Exquisite Pain
New York
Paula Cooper Gallery
Now through July 22

  Like an avant-garde detective, Sophie Calle has documented the travels of strangers, snooped in their hotel rooms, and raided their address books for the sake of creating art that enlightens. But when her lover deserted her suddenly after a three-month excursion to the Far East, her intense heartbreak inspired a new working method. Devising a Buddhist-inspired exercise, she immersed herself in the sorrows of friends and acquaintances to relieve the burden of her own suffering. The first set of her meditations retrospectively counts down 92 "days until unhappiness" on rubber-stamped snapshots of travel souvenirs photographed before the momentous breakup. In the second series, pairs of delicately embroidered silk panels juxtapose photos and text of her lament with the tragedies of others, lending an exquisite patina to a wall of pain. (JK)

Philip Kwame Apagya
San Francisco
Rena Bransten Gallery
Now through July 23

  Philip Kwame Apagya makes no bones about it: His photographs are fakes. He'll set up a scene in which a woman brushes her teeth in a lavish bathroom or a visitor strikes a pose beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis — but while the models are real, the scenery is provided by his own brightly painted backdrops. Coming out of a rich African tradition of portraiture that includes the works of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe, Apagya's pictures revel in the humor of their built environment and the irony of their puckish set-ups while still managing to focus on the people photographed. Apagya embraces his subjects no matter where they are — even in imagined spaces, where he always give them his best shot. (ML)

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[ Matthew Monteith ]

Matthew Monteith

We all live in a bubble, an architectural metaphor that holds us captive while exposing our fantasies. Over the past five years photographer Matthew Monteith has repeatedly returned to the subject of enclosure, presenting the environments in which we live, learn, and play as a series of revealing bubbles, where evidence of our dreams and ideologies is trapped and recorded.

In his first photographic series, Monteith documented the last days of the International Center for Photography's (ICP) location on NYC's East 94th Street. These pictures, like a later series done while a graduate student at Yale titled Art School, capture the spaces where artistic learning occurs. Employing the tenor and tones of a forensic document, Monteith's sparse compositions suggest a parched landscape, where hungry ghosts haunt chairs, desks, and walls.

Although Monteith is a superb portraitist, his pictures often seem uninhabited, like the characters have been suddenly cast out of their own bodies. This strange lonely quality is at work in his more recent and widely exhibited series Czech Eden. Taken while he was a Fulbright Scholar, the Eden pictures were inspired by Monteith's own collection of postcards from Czechoslovakia's communist era. As in the historic postcards, these works capture a group of subjects whose optimism is overlaid by an intractable architecture of circumscribed longing and failed utopia. Monteith deftly uses the framework of a country's borders to portray the humanity of his subjects while simultaneously evoking the clear disillusion of the Czech countryside. (NH)

Matthew Monteith's new work, documenting the interiors of cars, is on view in a solo exhibition at the Hotel Nord-Pinus in Arles, France, through September 18, 2005.

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[ Lesley A. Martin ]

Hellen van Meene / An-My Lê / Vik Muniz / Katy Grannan

Paul Laster interviews Lesley A. Martin, executive editor of books at Aperture, about photography books.
AK: What sort of photography books does Aperture publish?

LAM: Over the past few years, we've been working hard to reinvent the concept of what an Aperture book is and what it should look like. At one point, Aperture set the standard for what people wanted to see in a photo book, but things had really gotten a little staid and predictable, both in the design as well as the type of photography we published. Now we're trying hard to be much more open and to take risks both in terms of subject matter, approaches, book formats, designs, etc.

A lot of publishers develop their niche: super-trendy and marketable or pop, classic or academic. Aperture is unique in terms of art/photo book publishers in that we are a not-for-profit organization and see our mission as representing what goes on in photography in a very broad sense — it just has to be excellent photography, and, ideally, photography that is pushing the boundaries of what one can do with the medium. I love to see work that takes old ideas and stands them on their heads. That said, we have a history of 50-plus years that grounds us in the classics. So in a year's worth of 18 to 20 books, you'll find titles that deal with historical material by someone like Paul Strand or Augustus Sherman as well as the first monographs of emerging artists (Loretta Lux and David Hilliard); reportage work (Chien-Chi Chang); and conceptual and digital work (Atta Kim or Joan Fontcuberta). Drawing it all together, finally, we have renewed our commitment to publishing great writing on photography — either by photographers (our upcoming volume of translated writings by Japanese artists) or esteemed critics (David Levi Strauss or Vicki Goldberg).

AK: What are the criteria for selecting photographers and writers?

LAM: This is one of the hardest, most intangible things to nail down in publishing. We look for work that stands out — either because it has taken a unique line of inquiry and tells a story in a way that hasn't been done before, or it adds new ideas, new twists to an ongoing argument or conversation that happens within photography; or we find international work that simply hasn't been seen or properly presented in this country; or it's just absolutely brilliant, and we feel it ought to be out there. Of course, we can't publish everything we just fall in love with, so we do look for material that we think will have staying power and legs — whether that's proven accomplishment and critical acclaim or the promise of exhibitions and presence in the field in the future. It's an extremely hard thing to gauge, and we also have to make sure that our list isn't too heavily weighted in one direction or another.

AK: You recently published monographs of portrait photographers Hellen van Meene and Loretta Lux and have another in production on Katy Grannan. What attracted you to their work?

keep reading the interview »

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Think of England
by Martin Parr
Phaidon Press

Distinguished by 52 solo exhibitions and 30 books, Martin Parr is an enviable photographer — one who crosses both international and aesthetic boundaries with equal ease. He has published books on boring postcards, shot people talking on cell phones around the world, and made self-portraits by pasting his head into found situations. In this lively book, he sticks his nose — and camera — into all things English, from the bourgeoisie lounging at the beach to the swells gathering at Ascot to the everyday things the groups share in common such as a cup of tea, a cucumber sandwich, or a racy tabloid. In his signature style of closely cropped, color-saturated, satirical snapshots, Parr captures his homeland with a poetic passion and questioning eye. (PL)

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Cover image
Ryan McGinley, Dakota hair (detail), 2004
Chromogenic color print
30 x 40 in. / 76 x 101.5 cm
Image courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

Paul Laster
Andrew Maerkle
Shana Nys Dambrot
Shiraz Randeria
Melissa Lo
Nikki Columbus
Jocelyn K. Glei
Mark Mangan

Christopher Elam
Mark Barry

Rachel Cook
Lisa Cooley
Leigh Goldstein
Nicholas Herman
Allison Kave
Jessica Kraft
Christopher Y. Lew
Natasha Madov
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Marlyne Sahakian
Michelle Weinberg

Anjuli Ayer

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

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